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Baptismal Exorcism

Since the Epiphany, we have emphasized our Baptismal Vocation to:

  • Proclaim Christ in Thought, Word, and Deed through Imitation;
  • Seek Justice and Honest Peace;
  • Act with Compassion and Mercy; and
  • Love and Serve All People, but especially the Vulnerable.

Our shared Baptismal vocation calls us to utilize our prophetic voice participating in ushering forth the Kingdom of God that is here among us now in glimpse, that is near, and that is not yet fulfilled. Unfortunately, the prophetic voice is often uncomfortable for it is convicting to the hearer while dangerous for the speaker.

Our shared Baptismal vocation calls us to proclaim a call to repentance, or an opportunity for individuals, communities, and nations to turn from their own will to the Will of God. This call is to be proclaimed whether we desire the person or persons to be afforded this second chance.

Our share Baptism invites us into repentance, thus acknowledging our need to turn from our own will and toward the Will of God in a second chance yet again.

Our Baptismal emphasis does continue this morning.

Jesus is teaching in the synagogue. Jesus is impressing the people and teaching with authority.

And yet, Jesus is interrupted by the disruptive outburst from the unclean, demonic spirit within a man. This unclean, demonic spirit recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God.

Jesus quickly silences the unclean, demonic spirit with an exorcism nestled in our passage.

The Gospel of Mark has the ‘Messianic Secret’, or Jesus holding his divine identity secret even from his most intimate disciples until the Transfiguration.

Thus, Jesus silences and removes the unclean, demonic spirit that announced his divine identity.

Exorcism is not often discussed in mainline Protestant denominations, perhaps we are not comfortable with the idea of supernatural evil forces that must be removed from persons. However, our Rite of Baptism and our Affirmation of Baptism does include a minor Rite of Exorcism.

  • Do you RENOUNCE the devil and all forces that defy God?
  • Do you RENOUNCE the powers of this world that rebel against God?
  • Do you RENOUNCE the ways that sin draws you from God?

And, we responded “I renounce them”. This was a minor Rite of Exorcism.

The devil and all forces that defy God, the powers of this world that rebel against God, and the sin that draws us from God and neighbor, whether actively or in silent complicity, are unclean spirits.

But, what are these unclean spirits?

Our Christian Scriptures do support the presence of supernatural evil summoned from the depths of hell, but admittedly this disturbs me and thankfully is rare. Thus, I tend to shy away from the topic.

In the Biblical era, disability or illness in mind or body was often attributed to unclean, demonic spirits. Despite advances in science and medicine, there are faiths and persons who continue to do so. 

And yet, our Rite of Baptism and Affirmation of Baptism does not limit said unclean spirits to supernatural forces from hell determined to destroy our mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing.

Instead, these rites intend to exorcise any spirit, force, idea, or action that defies the Will and Kingdom of God in and among the entire creation, our nations, our communities, our synagogues and churches, and even within ourselves.

Prejudice based upon race, ethnicity, or nationality is an unclean spirit.

Prejudice based upon gender, gender-identity, or sexuality is an unclean spirit.

Prejudice based upon socio-economics, education, or age is an unclean spirit.

Prejudice based upon political affiliations is an unclean spirit.

Prejudice based upon religious adherence or lack thereof is an unclean spirit.

The dehumanizing of one another is an unclean spirit. 

The denying persons respect and dignity is an unclean spirit.

All acts of violence and any harm done to another in mind, body, or soul is an unclean spirit.

Silent complicity in the presence of said unclean spirits is also an unclean spirit.

Unfortunately, we are all guilty of said unclean spirits.

And thus, the minor Rite of Exorcism in our Rite or Affirmation of Baptism is needed daily.

It is the daily renouncing of the devil and all forces that defy God.

It is the daily renouncing of all powers that rebel against God.

It is the daily renouncing of all the ways that sin, personal and communal, draw us from God and neighbor.

This exorcism is not for our sake alone. This exorcism is for the sake of our neighbors, places of worship, communities, nations, and the entire creation. 

May we affirm our baptisms daily
including the renouncing of all unclean spirits.

May said minor Rite of Exorcism enable us
to more faithfully follow the Will of God.
Amen.

Scripture was Mark 1: 21-28.
Originally preached 31 Jan. 2021 for Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2021 in Sermons

 

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Call to Repentance

I want to pause and rewind for a moment.

Since the Epiphany, our scriptures have emphasized the “light-bulb” moments of vocation. Vocation is our callings, which expand well beyond our profession to our relationships, our public roles, our family roles, and every aspect of our being. These vocations, for baptized Christians, should be firmly rooted in our baptismal callings:

  • To proclaim Christ in thought, word, and deed;
  • To seek justice and honest peace;
  • To act with compassion and mercy in the care of the world that God has made; and
  • To love and serve all people, but especially the most vulnerable.

We heard Samuel called by the voice of God in the night. Samuel was a willing prophet responding “Here I am, Lord, your servant is listening”. And yet, the first prophetic message is one of judgment upon his mentor, the high priest Eli.

Jonah is instead a reluctant prophet of sorts.

Jonah was an Israelite prophet, who spoke from and among his people.

Jonah spoke confidently that despite the failures and sins of the Israelite people, God would pardon them in abundant grace without their recognition and acknowledgement of it.

God would pardon them in abundant grace without their accountability and responsibility.

God would pardon them in abundant grace without their repentance and change of mind, heart, or behavior.

The grace of God is beyond our comprehension, but the idea of pardon through grace without recognizing and acknowledging our own personal and collective failure and sins, without holding ourselves and another accountable and responsible, and without repentance that leads to renewed commitment to our baptismal vocation is simply cheap grace.

Please note, however, that we must rely on the abundant grace of God for we are not without failure and sin to be recognized and acknowledged, to be accountable and responsible, and to be called into repentance that changes our minds, hearts, and lives to more fully reflect the path, Will, and Kingdom of God. This is a lifetime process and every second is a second chance.

So, God sends Jonah to Nineveh, in order to proclaim a call to repentance. Jonah is reluctant because:

  • Jonah did not like those in Nineveh.
  • Jonah did not want these to have the opportunity to repent.
  • Jonah knew that in abundant grace, God would be true to the divine characteristics of steadfast love and being merciful.

Jonah delivered the shortest sermon in history, under his breath, and prayed none heard the warning. And yet, they did.

The people enter into a fast of repentance, including wearing the grain sacks for clothes.

Their leadership declared and ordered the observation of this fast of repentance, although unnecessary for the people were already participating.

And then, it becomes the comedic commentary intended when the livestock and animals are included in the fast. Can you envision the cows wearing grain sacks?

God does pardon Nineveh to the dismay of Jonah. Perhaps, Jonah was sent as a reluctant prophet to Nineveh to grow more deeply in his understand of God abundant in grace, merciful to a fault, and always steadfast in love towards us and the ‘other’, whether it is to our dismay or our celebration.

And yet, one day the people of Nineveh will invade and occupy a non-repentant Israel.

Jonah was not the only prophet sent from and among Israel to proclaim a call to repentance.
John the Baptizer held the same vocation, which led to his arrest and beheading.

And then, Jesus places the mantle upon his shoulders proclaiming a call to repentance for the Kingdom of God is here now in glimpses, it is near and coming, and it is not yet fulfilled.

Jesus invites Simeon (Peter), Andrew, John, and James to leave behind their professions, their possessions, and their loved ones in order to gather more persons into relationship with the Triune God in hope, honest peace, divine presence in joy, and unconditional love through repentance and reconciliation.

Unfortunately, Jesus and his disciples would also suffer violent death for their prophetic voice and call to repentance for none take pleasure in looking at the mirror to see our sin, our failure, our shadow-side staring back. And yet, we are precisely called to confront said sin, failure, and shadow-side with a repentant heart seeking reconciliation with neighbor and God as able.

May we hear the call to repentance.

May we look into the mirror and confront our sin, failure, and shadow-side.

May we recognize and acknowledge it.

May we be accountable and responsible for it.

May we repent for our sin, failure, and shadow-side and
recommit to our shared Christian, baptismal vocations.

May we seek reconciliation with neighbor and God.

May we experience abundant, but true, grace.
Amen.

Scriptures were Jonah 3: 1-5, 10 and Mark 1: 14-20.
Originally preached 24 January 2021 for Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, IN).

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2021 in Sermons

 

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Prophetic Voice

After the sermon “Why was Jesus Baptized? Why Affirm Our Own?” on January 10th, it was brought to my attention that despite direct renouncing on social media and the generalized renouncing of violence in previous sermons, I had failed to directly renounce previous violence, riot, and attack from the pulpit.

I recognize and acknowledge this failure. I publicly repent.

I bravely and boldly renounce all acts of riot and violence as contrary to the Will and Kingdom of God.

I bravely and boldly renounce all acts of riot and violence despite the associated gatherings, person or persons, organizations or institutions, including but not limited to:

  • Antifa,
  • Black Lives Matter,
  • Child Abuse,
  • Domestic Violence,
  • Gender-based and Sexual Violence,
  • Proud Boys,
  • QAnon,
  • Sport Championship Wins,
  • and otherwise.

This brave and bold renouncement is rooted in our baptismal commitments and re-commitments in our Affirmation of Baptism, through renouncing the devil, all forces that defy God, the powers of this world that rebel against God, and draw us from the path, Will, and Kingdom of God. This requires the help of God.

And yet, our shared Christian vocation rooted in our baptismal commitments and these renouncements are not divorced from our intriguingly, inter-connected scriptures from the call of the young Samuel to Jesus’ earliest disciples, and from how the call arrives to its embracement and embodiment.

Our baptismal commitments include:

  • to live among the faithful gathered around the Word and sacraments and who teach us the Lord’s prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments;
  • to nurture our faith and prayer life in order to grow in a deeper, healthier, more trusting relationship with the Triune God;
  • to proclaim Christ in thought, word, and deed through embodying His teachings while imitating His public life and ministry as recorded in the Scriptures;
  • to care for, love, and serve others and the entire creation that God has made; and
  • to seek and strive towards justice and peace.

Although I often refer to this as our shared Christian vocation, it is our discipleship.

According to our Old Testament scripture, Israel was in a dark time lacking the experience of the divine presence in voice and vision. Eli was their high priest, who had grown dull, blind, and deaf spiritually while ignoring the actions of his ‘priestly sons’ according to the Torah, or teaching, in ritual practice and basic human decency.

Meanwhile, Samuel is a young boy whose short life has been dedicated to the service of the Temple, who is literally sleeping near the Arc of the Covenant holding the tablets that the Ten Commandments were inscribed. Samuel is not and will never be a priest, for he is not from the ‘priestly’ tribe.

But, Samuel will be awoken by the voice of God. Samuel would be a prophet, for that is not limited to tribe.

Samuel responds to the voice “Here I am Lord, your servant is listening”.

And yet it may seem a cruel calling, for Samuel is initially summoned to deliver a divine warning to Eli that his family’s legacy will be destroyed due to their faithlessness.

Samuel will continue his prophetic, public ministry sharing the messages of God not within the temple but among the common people in the country-side.

Then after centuries had passed, God became incarnated in human flesh and bone as Jesus the Christ, who was raised by a common family within a small country-side town called Nazareth. Jesus was baptized in the Jordon River beginning his public ministry as a teacher and prophet with a public dedication to the path, Will, and Kingdom of God.

Now, we enter into the scriptures with the calling of Jesus’ earliest disciples. Philip and Nathanael.

Philip easily and excitedly agreed to leave his employment, family, and life as he knew it to answer the invitation and call from Jesus to ‘follow me’.

Nathanael, on the other hand, was more ‘skeptical’, but perhaps he had a deeper sense of fulfillment in his employment, family, and life as he knew it. So, he asks ‘can anything good come from Nazareth’?

Philip, perhaps grabs Nathanael by the hand, says ‘come and see’. Nathanael does.

I envision the conversation of Philip, Nathanael, and Jesus was deeper and lengthier than included in Scripture. But, the conversation convinced Nathanael to ‘follow’ Jesus and to ‘see’ for himself.

Jesus always spoke truth. Jesus, similar to Samuel, spoke prophetically.

Jesus called his disciples, including us, to speak prophetically.

Unfortunately, the prophetic voice is often uncomfortable, painful, and convicting to hear.

The prophetic voice can be uncomfortable, painful, and dangerous to speak.

I think of Paul Tillich, a German Lutheran theologian, whose prophetic voice against the NAZI party resulted in the loss of his employment at the University and relocation to the United States of America.

I think of Martin Luther King Jr, a Black Baptist preacher from Alabama, whose prophetic voice against racial injustice in the United States of America paired with non-violent protest and civil disobedience ultimately resulted in his assassination.

These men are examples of Christian persons who spoke prophetically in courage.

These men are examples of Christian persons who paired their prophetic voice with action. 

These men are examples of Christian persons who relied on the Grace of God to do so.

Similarly, we are called to speak prophetically in courage for the sake of justice and honest peace.

Similarly, we are called to pair our prophetic voice with actions of compassion, mercy, love, and service.

Similarly, we are called to rely on the Grace of God to do so. God Help Us.

May we echo Samuel, ‘here I am Lord, your servant is listening’.

May we model Philip and Nathanael, who answered the calling to follow Jesus as disciples.

May we embrace our prophetic voice within and through our shared baptismal, Christian vocation. 

May God help us. Amen.

Scriptures were 1 Samuel 3: 1-10 and John 1: 43-51.
Originally preached  17 January 2021 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN)

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2021 in Sermons

 

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